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Data storage jobs outlook: Specific skills in demand

Listings for data storage jobs increased in 2010, while pay decreased or remained flat; experts say hiring taking longer as firms wait to find the right fit

Despite a nationwide recession and an unemployment rate hanging around 9%, the market for data storage jobs is improving. There are more jobs for storage professionals this year than last year, according to sources who track the IT job market.

At, an Iowa-based company that posts and tracks technology jobs and career news, postings for storage-specific jobs jumped 52% in 2010 when compared to 2009, according to Tom Silver, Dice's senior vice president (VP) North America.

One company looking to hire a data storage pro is Waltham, Mass.-based email marketing firm Constant Contact Inc. The company has a posting on the job site for a storage engineer with at least three years experience supporting NAS or SAN storage networks, the Symantec Veritas Foundation Suite, and Linux and/or Solaris.

"We're building a new data center in California, so we're looking for people to help with that," said Sergey Katalichenka, Constant Contact's manager of storage systems.

Constant Contact has a team dedicated to data storage, and has more than 500 TB under management. While the company's current opening is storage specific, Katalichenka said a multifaceted candidate is more in demand in this market.

"We support not just storage, but also systems associated with that storage," he said. "We're looking for our candidate to be stronger in storage than administration but with knowledge of both."

Storage salaries not rising, but better than average

Storage salaries were flat to down last year over the previous year. While Constant Contact said the starting salary would depend on the person it hires, Dice's Silver said storage professionals enjoy a higher starting pay than many other IT disciplines.

"Salaries for storage pros declined 4% to about $84,000 last year," he said. "They're still paid better than the average tech worker."

In Storage magazine's 2010 annual Salary Survey, 326 respondents reported an average annual salary of $96,554. That represented less than a 1% increase over 2009.

Companies such as Constant Contact have determined their storage staffing needs are changing because of an influx of new data, creating the need for expanded data centers. Silver said firms on Dice are looking for professionals who can "not only manage the backup and recovery of the data center, but also model, debug and optimize storage infrastructure."

Certifications can increase pay

David Foote, CEO at Foote Partners LLC, a Vero Beach, Fla.-based research company that monitors IT-related jobs, said companies will pay additional compensation for skills such as the SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert (SCSN-E) – a certification his firm estimates can bring a 12% base salary premium.

"Some companies see fit to pay for extra certifications because they'll have to replace them for a certain market price," said David Foote, CEO at Foote Partners LLC. In his  2011 IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index, Foote maps out just how much, on average, a candidate could be paid in addition to the base salary an employer is offering for certain skills and certifications.

Certification Median average pay premium (% of base salary)
Cisco Storage Networking Design Specialist 8%
Cisco Storage Networking Support Specialist 8%
Cisco Data Center Storage Networking Design Specialist 7%
EMC Proven Professional Storage Administrator -- Expert 9%
EMC Proven Professional Storage Administrator -- Specialist 7%
EMC Proven Professional Storage Technologist -- Specialist 8%
IBM Certified Specialist - Storage Networking Solutions, Version 2 9%
SNIA Certified Storage Networking Expert (SCSN-E) 12%
SNIA Certified Storage Architect 9%
SNIA Certified Storage Professional 5%
SNIA Certified Systems Engineer 7%

According to Dice research, the job count for EMC-related storage skills grew to a little more than 2,000 in 2010 from just under 1,400 jobs in 2008. Other storage-specific skills that Dice lists as in-in-demand, in order of popularity, are Fibre Channel, iSCSI, NAS, NetApp and SAN.

While storage isn't necessarily in as much demand as other IT skills such as application development, data storage managers are still a higher priority than server or email administrators, according to John McKnight, VP of research at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG).

According to the ESG 2011 IT Spending Intentions report, 39% of organizations surveyed said they'll add IT staff in 2011 and 19% of those companies will add storage administrators. Twelve percent of respondents believe their company has a shortage of storage skills.

Companies taking their time to find the right fit

According to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), a private recruitment and staffing representative based in England, companies are taking longer to make hiring decisions and will hold more rounds of interviews than in the past. Organizational culture may now be a top concern for potential employees, along with having the proper skills to complete the duties of their data storage jobs. At Constant Contact, Katalichenka said he's willing to wait for the right candidate for the position.

"We're really being selective and looking for a good fit," he said. "It depends on how the candidate fits into the company."

"It could take a week to a month to six weeks depending on what people are available at what times," said Erika Dornaus, senior communications manager at Constant Contact. "Culture is very important, we like to have a culture fit as well as with the skill sets."


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